• Drew Pierce

PIERCE: Robert Whittaker wins ‘chess match’ against quick-rising Middleweight contender


Photo: Robert Whittaker raises his hands before hearing the final decision against Darren Till.  Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC



In the final card at Fight Island, the UFC hosted a stacked lineup of bouts that ended with a pivotal main event for the Middleweight division.


No. 1 Robert Whittaker took on No. 5 Darren Till in a fight that went all five rounds in the main event.


Although Till has been in the UFC since 2015, he has managed to maintain his starting momentum with huge wins over Donald Cerrone and Stephen Thompson. His bolstering personality, both in person and on Twitter, makes him a huge selling point for the UFC.


Although Till is known to y’all a big game, he also has the results to back it up. His technical striking abilities makes him a huge threat on the feet. We saw Till playing to his strengths in this bout against Whittaker. While Till only landed 50 shots in this fight, 41 of them were classified as significant.


On my scorecard, the first round was the only one that Till definitely won. After that, the fight stayed close, but Whittaker held the pace and landed more shots for the remaining 20 minutes.


After the five, full rounds, the decision was in the hands of the judges. Whittaker won via unanimous decision as all three judges scored it 48-47 in favor of the former champion.


Although I can totally see 48-47 being a valid score, I actually had it 49-45 in favor of Whittaker. This is because of the pivotal second round for Whittaker. He out-struck Till 42-3 including a huge knockdown. This led me to score the round 10-8 rather than 10-9 like the judges did.


Despite Till having Whittaker on his heels for much of the fight, Till showed his incredible chin and resilience against the former Middleweight king. Just because he lost, does not mean his stock will fall. In fact, this fight has only further proved that Till can hang with the best.


“I have never felt like this after a loss,” Till said in the post-fight press conference. “It was a close fight against the former champion. I feel like we both won. It was a clinically great match.”


The match may be ”clinical” in more ways than one, as Till revealed after the fight that Whittaker’s knee stomp caused a very serious injury that will most likely require surgery. Although we have to wait to see what actually happened, this could have affected him in the second round and definitely contributed to his loss.


The injury doesn’t come as much of a surprise, especially with Whittaker’s well established technique of use of lower leg kicks. He was able to land 30 strikes to the legs, mostly on the lead leg of Till.


Even though Till ate a lot of shots, it was the mental warfare that took its toll.


“The pain is nothing,” Till said in the post-fight press conference. “It was stressful. It was the mental levels of stress. We both know what we want to do, but who is going to do it first?”


Whittaker agrees.


“There was a lot of pressure and stress going into the fight,” Whittaker said in the post-fight press conference. “I am just happy. I’m happy that I got to showcase my skill sets. Stressful fight. That was the most technical striking fight I’ve ever had. That was a chess match.”


Even after the fight, it was all respect. Both fighters chalked it up backstage and appeared to be in good spirits.


“We just have so much respect for each other as competitors,” Till said in the post-fight press conference.  “I’ve showed my level. I’m up there. I am going to continue to be one of the top guys.”


UFC Fight Night: Brunson vs. Shahbazyan will return to the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, NV next Saturday.


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